Why Your Phone Has You Hooked

Hardly anyone can go a whole day without a phone. At least, that’s what it seems like. A classroom is no longer a place of learning without distraction. Students have mastered the mystic art of concealing their phones. They stash the phones under their legs, between the pages of a binder, hidden behind a book they are supposed to be reading, waiting for the right moment to whip it out and check all their social media. Before class, during class, after class: all times one might be able to see a phone screen awake and in use, if they walked by the classroom.

It’s not just students who are on the phone craze, either. Sometimes teachers are seen on their phones before or after class, while they are on their lunch break, and, in bad cases, during class. I mean, sure, the new season of Stranger Things just came out and I “can’t wait” to see it either, but the series is not going to suddenly pop out of existence if you set down your phone for one second. What is going on with society where they can’t go without a flat piece of glass and metal for a measly 24 hours?

The Oxford Dictionary describes an organ as “a part of an organism which is typically self-contained and has a specific vital function”. The new generation’s most “vital” organ seems to be one that they are not even born with. Or are they? According to Time, a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting showed that most children under four years old are able to operate devices like tablets and phones to watch their favorite shows, play games, access social media sites, call people from contacts, and surf the web. Because phones are designed to be easy to learn, even babies can navigate without a problem.

Phones are specifically designed to keep people hooked. Games, apps, and social media are all designed to have users coming back for more. That feeling that something exciting could happen at any moment is there, which is the same exact effect that a certain devastating casino game has. That’s right; phones are designed like slot machines, at least, according to YaleGlobal. They’re designed to hold the prize out of reach in such a wonderful way that people have to keep coming back. Certain social media sites are even designed to hold out on notifications until you open the app, and, when you do, all the likes and messages are delivered in a rush that makes you never want to close the app. This causes an addiction, as people feel “withdrawal” when they go without checking their phone for too long.

According to The Telegraph, people who are addicted to their phones often say they feel like they “lost a limb” when they are without their precious device. It may sound hyperbolic, but those people are very serious when they say that it feels like a part of them is missing. In fact, there is a word used to describe that feeling. The effect is called “the phantom limb,” which is often felt by amputees after losing an appendage. People who have ever experienced this feeling often describe it as an uncomfortable or even painful sensation coming from the limb that is no longer attached. A person might experience “the phantom limb” when they are without their phone because they are never separated from it. If they are, they feel uncomfortable, incomplete, like a part of them is missing. These types of people are almost never found without their phone on them and can get defensive if someone touches their device.

Many people may not realize it, but phones are becoming more of an intrusion than anything else. By being connected at all times, people are severing themselves from reality and the people right in front of them.  By constantly staring at their screen, people are becoming less social than ever. Many don’t know how to start conversations and would rather text someone than talk to them face-to-face, even if they are standing only five feet away from them. Phones are also changing our brains to cause shorter attention spans. These are not temporary effects, either. These are permanent alterations. Imagine two people talking, then one pulls out a phone to mindlessly check their social media. Does it sound familiar? This is behavior caused by a short attention span is so common, there is now a word for it: “phubbing” (phone snubbing).

Phones don’t just cause problems with social health. Phones have even been known to cause problems with health. Many people bring their phone to bed, telling themselves, I’m going to bed, not playing on my phone. However, three hours later, said person is staring intently down at their phone screen, watching “just one more episode” of the new season of Stranger Things on Netflix. The people who bring their phones to bed are often sleep deprived, causing them to be tired and sluggish all the time. Everyone deals with sleep deprivation in different ways, but the most common side effects are irritability, which makes it harder for people to deal with relationships and problems rationally. Additionally, they suffer from difficulty concentrating, which can affect performance in school or at a job, and, of course, tiredness. And here’s the kicker: even if the person did somehow manage to put down their phone at bedtime without checking it further, the person will still feel tired in the morning, or, at least, will have a hard time falling asleep. The blue light from the phone screen tricks the brain into thinking it is not the time for bed. The best solution is to put the phone down outside the bedroom. It is not needed to fall asleep.

Phones are now an integral part of society. People are attached to their phones in their eternal quest to be connected. People have shorter attention spans, sleep problems, and difficulty coping without their devices because of these tiny connection machines inside their pockets. Phones are having a negative effect on society, for sure, but you have to admit: the last season of Stranger Things was AMAZING, right?